Monday, October 2, 2006
The investigation of the inappropriate e-mail and text messages sent by former Representative Mark Foley to former House pages threatens to become a much broader investigation. While Speak Dennis Hastert initially asserted he did not learn of the communications until they came to light this week, Representative Thomas Reynolds asserts that he informed the Speaker last year about some of the messages involving Foley, according to a Washington Post article (here). Congress likes nothing better than an investigation -- see the recent Hewlett-Packard hearings and the hearings last year on steroid use in baseball -- but when it gets close to home then the analysis may be different.
With Congress out of session now as legislators tend to their reelection campaigns, Speaker Hastert requested the Department of Justice conduct a criminal investigation of Foley's communications. His letter to Attorney General Gonzales on Sunday, October 1, states that the investigation should include anyone "who had specific knowledge of the content of any sexually explicit communications between Mr. Foley and any former or current House pages and what actions such individuals took, if any, to provide them to law enforcement." The relationship between the House of Representatives and the Department has been rather testy since the search of Congressman William Jefferson's office in May related to a corruption probe, with the claim that the Executive Branch overstepped its bounds by searching a legislator's office. By being invited by Congress to conduct the investigation, the Department of Justice and FBI will likely be unopposed in seeking records from Representative Foley's office related to a potential violation of federal child exploitation laws, such as 18 U.S.C. Sec. 2422(b) (here) on use of a means of interstate commerce to solicit a minor to engage in sexual conduct. The investigation is likely to be run through the Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section in the Criminal Division, and could put a number of members of the House leadership under an very uncomfortable microscope. (ph)